This small exploratory study was carried out in 2021 by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) for the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa. The project is part of a wider suite of six studies commissioned by the National Library as part of their Communities of Readers initiative. This initiative foregrounds the benefits of reading for pleasure and the equitable distribution of these benefits across all communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The study investigates associations between the personal reading practices of nine primary and intermediate teachers known to be passionate readers and their engagement with students around text. While the teachers varied in their backgrounds, life experiences, career pathways, and reading tastes, their aspirations for their students as readers were remarkably similar. Teachers wanted their students to: enjoy reading, see themselves as readers, experience wellbeing, develop their sense of identity, broaden their horizons, have agency, and develop the desire to tell their own stories. The findings from this study suggest that the teachers’ orientation towards text may be as—if not more—important as the learning opportunities they provided.
Teachers told stories of children becoming engaged with reading, sometimes for the first time in their schooling lives. Some teachers also observed academic shifts, especially with children who had previously struggled with reading. One explanation is that a reader orientation towards text can be inclusive, responsive, sustaining, and purposeful. For the reader teachers in this study, reading was about finding pleasure, wellbeing, connection, relationship, meaning, and a sense of identity in the world. It was about being part of a community with a shared interest in meaning-making. With such an orientation, different interpretations and responses to text are of interest, and the prior experiences and knowledges of all readers are valued as important meaning-making resources. Conversations about different responses and interpretations provided opportunities to learn more about the text, about each other, and about the act of meaning-making itself. This might help explain why teachers found their approaches to be successful, especially with students who had not previously found reading at school to be engaging.